Kia's latest entry into the ultra-competitive 3-row SUV market is a knockout by any measure.
The 2020 Kia Telluride competes in the three-row crossover segment. With no shortage of competitors, the Telluride is looking to make a splash among some recognizable nameplates.
- Ford Explorer
- Honda Pilot
- Toyota Highlander
- Subaru Ascent
- Mazda CX-9
- Hyundai Palisade
- Dodge Durango
- Chevrolet Traverse
Kia provided us with a 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD to test out for a week.
- Starting MSRP excluding destination: LX FWD $31,690, S FWD $33,990, EX FWD $37,090, SX FWD $41,490, LX AWD $33,690, S AWD $35,990, EX AWD $39,090, SX AWD $43,490
- As tested price: $47,255.00
- 3.8L 6 cyl engine 291 horsepower/262 lb-ft torque
- 8-speed automatic transmission
- 245/50R20 all-season tires, 20” painted black alloy wheels
- 1st row/2nd row/3rd row Headroom (Inches): 39.5/38.8/37.8
- 1st row/2nd row/3rd row Legroom (Inches): 41.4/42.4/31.4
- Cargo volume rear seats up/down (CU.FT.): Behind 2nd row: 46, Behind 3rd row: 21
- Fuel Tank (Gals): 18.8
- Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined): 19/24/21
- NHTSA Overall Safety Rating: 5 Stars
“That’s a Kia?”
“Looks like a Land Rover.”
“Wow, this interior is really nice.”
“Kia has really stepped up its game!”
These phrases and many other accolades were uttered countless times throughout my week with the 2020 Kia Telluride. The 3-row SUV with its large, unapologetically boxy shape, contrasting Snow White Pearl paint, and 20” black-painted alloy wheels has a real road presence to it. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it spells out “Telluride” in bold font across the front hood and rear tailgate. Another detail that gives the Telluride its confident demeanor is the distinct amber color of the daytime running lights that outline the headlight projectors. I received many stares and thumbs-up throughout my time with the SUV. No surprise, given how good this vehicle looks from the outside.
Things only get better when you step inside. Available exclusively on the top-of-the-line SX model, the Dune Brown Nappa leather seats were sumptuously soft with just the right amount of firmness on the bolsters. My tester also included the optional SX Prestige Package which came with additional niceties such as a head-up display, rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated second-row seats, and a premium headliner. The interior felt airy, spacious, and downright luxurious. As a reminder, yes, I am talking about a Kia.
Long a Kia hallmark, the Telluride's value quotient is high, and you get a lot for your hard-earned money. Most of the features are not groundbreaking or even new tech, but it is loaded up with all the creature comforts and convenience features you would want in any vehicle. In a refreshing break from today's unfortunate trend towards adding complexity, the Telluride's features are intuitive and placed logically. One stand-out feature is the blind-spot camera integrated into the side mirror; when the driver initiates a lane change with the turn signal, the screen between the tachometer and speedometer displays a live image of the vehicle’s blind spot. It took a day or so to get used to, but in a short amount of time, I began to wonder why more manufacturers don't offer this setup.
One of the reasons a consumer might purchase an SUV over a sedan is the sense of additional safety, and the Telluride doesn't disappoint. The government-backed NHTSA gives the Telluride with a 5-star overall safety rating, and the IIHS also selected the Telluride as a Top Safety Pick with the LED projector headlights. Crash test ratings are one thing, but the best type of collision is one that is avoided entirely. Thankfully, the Telluride comes equipped with numerous safety features that all have their own brochure-friendly acronym. Let’s go through a few, shall we?
- Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist-Rear (BCA-R) alerts drivers with a light that illuminates when another car enters your blind spots. SX models supplement this system with the aforementioned camera that activates with the turn signals.
- Parking Distance Warning-Reverse (PDW-R) utilizes sonar sensors to alert drivers to potential hazards while backing up.
- Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA) is supremely helpful when backing out of tight parking spots with low visibility, as it will detect oncoming perpendicular traffic and provide both audio and visual alerts to mitigate a collision. Failing that, the system can also jam the brakes on to prevent a mishap.
- Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Forward Collision Avoidance (FCA) work together to monitor the front of the car - the former will provide an audible and visual warning if it detects a potential collision, while the latter can automatically apply the brakes if no action is taken by the driver.
- Similarly, Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) can help ease driver fatigue by providing an alert if the vehicle drifts out of the lane, while the latter can actively steer the car back into the center of the lane.
- Rear Occupant Alert with Ultrasonic Sensors (ROA) and Safe Exit Assist (SEA) are aimed at keeping both rear occupants and other road users safe; the former will provide an alert if you exit the vehicle and forget about a passenger in the rear seats, while the latter will prevent the doors from opening if the sensors detect an oncoming car or bicyclist.
Kia includes all of these features as standard equipment even in the base LX model, so all Telluride buyers enjoy the added safety without being forced into a higher trim package.
Logging 819 miles and 20 hours of seat time in a week will give anyone plenty of opportunities to take in all that the Telluride has to offer. The road manners are impeccable; the suspension is more than up to the task of soaking up bumps and imperfections, even on the 20” wheels. On the other hand, the comfort-biased suspension translates into noticeable body roll when taking corners, but it's not uncontrolled floatiness that can make passengers motion sick. Road and wind noise is kept to a minimum thanks to an acoustic windshield and front windows. My passengers had no complaints sitting in the rear captain’s chairs with individual controls for heat and ventilation, as well as climate zones for each side. A plethora of USB ports helped keep everyone’s electronics charged. Legroom and headroom were generous even with the dual front and rear moonroof arrangement.
All the controls are easy to understand and right where you expect them to be. One doesn’t have to dig deep into the infotainment system to turn on the ventilated seats or set a certain temperature. Most frequently-used controls have hard buttons and were easily within reach. The seating position is high, and I always had an unobstructed view of the road. Seat comfort was top-notch, and I had no issue finding a comfortable driving position. Once I did, saving it was as easy as holding down the Set 1 button. Connecting my Pixel 2 XL was also a breeze - it merely required plugging the USB cable into my phone and selecting Android Auto. If you own an iPhone, don't fret - Apple CarPlay is present as well. The infotainment system features a beautiful 10” horizontal touchscreen that is suitably bright with crisp graphics, and provides ample screen real estate for large rear-view and 360-degree camera renderings.
The harman/kardon surround sound audio system features 10 speakers with Clari-Fi, external amplifier, and subwoofer. It filled the cabin with clear highs and crisp, punchy lows. The stereo upgrade alone is worth opting for the SX trim for if you prioritize audio performance.
Miles of freeway driving gave me the opportunity to test out the Telluride’s Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go. I found the system to be a welcome companion for the daily commute, whether cruising at typical Southern California freeway speeds or in congested rush hour traffic. When vehicles would cut in front of the Telluride, it would simply coast to drop speed instead of reacting like a panicking driver; that said, the system would also apply the brakes, aggressively, if needed. The heads up display tracked what the vehicle was seeing and also showed the following distance relative to the car in front. When traffic freed up, it accelerated at a measured pace instead of mashing the throttle. Overall, the system worked quite well in the real world, and I would leave it on for practically all of my commuting time because I trusted it to make my daily commute less stressful and fatiguing. Combine the Smart Cruise with a solid automatic climate control system, ventilated seats, and all the safety nannies, and you have a vehicle that you can spend hours in and feel well-rested once you arrive at your destination.
The Telluride is an outstanding overall package, but what about its drawbacks? I’ve tried to come up with negatives, but I have a hard time finding them without resorting to nitpicking. In my test vehicle, Android Auto only utilized ¾ of the screen, while Apple CarPlay took advantage of the entire 10 inches. The 8-speed transmission hunted for gears a little more than I would have preferred; it seemed tuned to get straight to the highest possible gear for fuel economy and it would take an extra second to kick down a few. Beyond that, the Lane Keeping Assist was a touch too aggressive for my taste, attempting to center the vehicle at even the slightest hint of drifting towards the lane markings. When you are this hard-pressed to find negative attributes about a vehicle after 800 miles, it’s safe to say I enjoyed the Telluride very much.
The Telluride impressed me the minute I laid eyes on it. Its design deliberately avoids the clutter that afflicts so many modern cars with multiple creases and character lines. It has a mature, "less is more" character to it which, in my opinion, will age very well. It holds its own despite having plenty of competition in the mid-size, three-row SUV market. Nameplates such as the Explorer, Pilot, and Highlander have been around a long time, but Kia’s new entry has made a big splash. If you’re shopping in this category, I highly recommend adding the Kia Telluride to your shortlist. As a cherry on top, consider Kia’s excellent 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty and the class-leading 5 year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper coverage.
The Best Features on the 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD:
- Bold, big, and boxy
2. Blind Spot View Monitor (BVM)
- An innovative take on a useful safety feature
3. 10.25” Touch Screen Display
- Crisp and bright, the landscape orientation makes this screen look classy and luxurious
4. Smart Cruise Control w/Stop and Go (SCC)
- One of the better applications on the market that makes commuting a lot less dreadful
5. Harman Kardon Audio System
- Rock out and hear every instrument as the musician intended